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Supporting you through pregnancy and the early stages of motherhood
Post natal exercise
getting your figure back
I'm sure you've heard all the stories regarding getting back in to shape after giving birth, there are the 'wonder women' who leave the hospital in their pre-pregnancy size 8 jeans and there are those at the opposite end of the scale who put on 4 stone during pregnancy and who 'just haven't been able to shift it' 10 years on. Fortunately most of us will fit in somewhere in the middle, getting back to your pre-pregnancy size will happen with a little bit of work and determination. Hopefully you will be relaxed enough about this to give yourself plenty of time to loose those extra pounds gradually unlike me, I was due to get married 5 months after my son was born and had been measured for my wedding dress before I was pregnant! It took a lot of work and a healthy diet but I did manage it, just!
First things first - your pelvic floor muscles. You may have been doing these exercises during pregnancy but if not you should start now. They are in no way difficult, the hardest bit I found was remembering to do them often enough, but a great piece of advice from a midwife was to do them every time I fed my baby, or every time I changed his nappy, this meant I was doing them at fairly regular intervals throughout the day.
What are pelvic floor muscles?
They are the muscles that are located under your bladder, bowel and womb and are attached like a hammock between the pelvic bones. If they are strong and healthy they will prevent leakage from the bladder, reduce the risk of prolapse and increase sexual pleasure - surely reason enough to a few simple exercises.
What to do
Lie, sit or stand with your knees slightly apart (I found lying the easiest but try all three to find what suits you) Imagine that you are trying to stop yourself from passing wind and at the same time trying to stop urinating mid flow. This is called a pelvic floor contraction. Remember not to: Hold your breath, squeeze your legs together, tighten your buttock muscles or practice while actually passing urine. Once you have mastered the art of the pelvic floor contraction you can gradually build up your strength, endurance and coordination. Tighten the muscles as described and hold for as many seconds as you can (no more than 10), release for four seconds then repeat as many times as you can (no more than 10). Then you need to do as many fast contractions as you can, this is where you tighten the muscles and release quickly, it will help the muscles react quickly when you laugh, cough and sneeze. Repeat this 'programme' four to six times a day and you will gradually notice that you are able to hold for longer and repeat more contractions and fast contractions. If you start this now it will help to reduce discomfort and swelling, promote healing and prevent leakage from the bladder and bowel.
Abdominal muscles
Ok so the pelvic floor exercises won't help you get your figure back but this next lot will, the abdominal muscles are stretched during pregnancy and are important because they help to support and protect your back.
What to do
Lie on your side, place your hand on your lower abdomen, between your tummy button and your pelvic bone breath normally and allow your tummy to sag. Breath in gently and as you breath out pull your tummy in toward your back away from your hand, then relax. Repeat, but this time keep your tummy muscles drawn in as you breath in and out, aim for a count of six seconds. Gradually increase the length of time you hold for and the number of repetitions. You can also try this sitting or standing, and try holding in your tummy when you are walking, standing, lifting and carrying your baby.
Pelvic tilt
Once you have mastered the abdominal exercise you can move on to the pelvic tilt, This may help to ease backache, after pains and wind.
What to do
Lie on your back with your knees bent, place your hand on your lower abdomen and tighten your deep abdominal muscles as before. Keep pulling in the abdominal muscles and tilt your pubic bon towards your chest - flattening the small of your back to the bed. Hold this position for six seconds then release slowly. Repeat up to six times if comfortable and remember to keep breathing throughout. If your abdomen bulges out under your hand do not continue, do the abdominal exercises only for a few more days before trying again. These basic exercises are suitable for quite soon after the birth but you should speak to your midwife or doctor if you are unsure, always listen to your body and don't push yourself too hard. If you intend to carry out a more intensive exercise routine then it is best to wait at least six weeks before returning to sport and 3-6 months for high impact exercise and it is advisable to discuss this with your GP before you begin.
Getting back to your
pre-pregnancy size will
happen with a little bit of
work and determination
Do pelvic floor muscle
exercises every time you feed your baby, or change a
nappy. This keeps them to
regular intervals
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